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The adaption of 5G and cellular born in the cloud

31/10/19 David Philpott Manager, R&D / Engineering

The promise of 5G technology is to deliver improved customer experiences via on-demand services on higher bandwidth, over a far greater number of devices - partially as a result of the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT). 5G promises unprecedented connectivity in the enterprise and consumer worlds.

Like groceries, cellular connectivity has become an essential commodity in the modern world, allowing innovation in real-time data environments. Mobile and distributed workforces will increasingly collaborate in new, more meaningful ways.

Dave Philpott, Redline’s Manager, R&D and Engineering, takes a closer look at the adaption of 5G and how it’s moving closer to the IT and Cloud-Computing world.

“This certainly means that 5G demands more complex networks and operators will need to adopt more process automation to deliver an ecosystem set for the coming years. As operators scale and mature 5G, the industry must begin provisioning wireless connectivity as a potential commodity.”

“A successful 5G rollout should give the operator the ability to experiment with new services and new automation algorithms. Enhanced mobile broadband, massive Internet of Things and ultra-reliable low latency communications for mission-critical services are the three primary 5G use cases.

Successfully delivering 5G applications requires growing the computing power present in traditional data centers as well as at the network edge.” says David.

While a comprehensive 5G network is not expected until 2020 in the UK, an increasing number of businesses are investigating and investing in the mobile wireless standard around the world. Most analysts predict a shift in engineering and IT skills and roles which businesses must acquire to embrace 5G and fully capitalise on the technology. Some believe that 5G has the potential to unlock up to $12.3 trillion of revenue across a broad range of industries and create an additional two million jobs worldwide. This will certainly drive demand for a range of technical skills and experience both in software engineer jobs, network infrastructure design, RF design jobs and IT and application software development.

Automation for 5G RAN rollout

Automation may be thought of as a process, either defining all the details of network configuration to the intent of addressing customer requirements. On the network side, automation will lead to machine-driven strategies for an operator. For the customer, automation should deliver on-demand services that could be accessed instantly. This could lead to AI algorithms recommending services based on behavioural analysis.

There is also an assumption that 5G and non-5G networks will work together, which will require the development of hybrid telecom networks either via physical hardware or a cloud-based OSS.

The network operators are currently configuring functions based on planning/high-level design to ensure they build the right architecture. 5G is not just evolution or a faster 4G – it’s a whole new concept and it’s as much of an IT project as a telecom effort. The cloud will be a crucial piece of 5G as operators keep pace with a rapidly changing technology and business environment.

On-Demand services

There will be little point a telecom operator rolling out a 5G network without being able to deliver services to match. With 5G comes the promise of revolutionary customer experience, specifically in on-demand services.  This assumes the next level of automation, giving the customer an impression of services, which can switch on and off as required.

This is likely to require a model-driven architecture with abstraction layers playing an essential role. At the top of the model are customer services which must be fulfilled by the automation process. e.g. A cloud-based photo storage, social media and streaming video services will rely on large, centralised data centers. But as 5G takes shape, a new breed of applications that take advantage of single-digit millisecond latency will become possible. Mobile virtual reality will open the way for new industrial robotics, medical diagnosis whilst on route to hospital, etc.

David continues: “The introduction of 5G will cause businesses to harvest more data from connected devices and sensors. As a result, engineers will need the expertise to extract this Big Data and build algorithms to provide insights and analytics from it to optimise business models and processes.”

“To make all that possible, the functionality associated with data centers will have to move closer to the network edge–whether that’s a device in users’ hands, an enterprise local area network or a cellular-connected machine or vehicle.”

In the core network, where the intricacies of network operations take place, NFV and SDN will allow for the separation of the network and control planes. NFV/SDN technologies will be crucial from the automation perspective. Virtual Network Function (VNFs), create opportunities for network slicing. Separate slices for IoT and mass-market mobile users will be critical for co-existence on the same network infrastructure. Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) decouples the network function from its physical device, enabling a network function to be migrated to the edge of the network, dynamically and on-demand. That way network functions can be relocated between sites and adapted for customers’ demands. Software Defined Networking (SDN) is a complementary technology that can re-shape the network according to the re-allocation of virtualised network functions.

By adopting a more IT-focused approach by using network functions virtualisation and SoftwareDefined Networking (SDN) the operators hope to reduce cost. Single-purpose hardware is being replaced with off-the-shelf hardware capable of recreating hardware-dependent functions virtually. This enables the abstraction of formerly complex, manual processes into software. Now the network can be reconfigured more quickly through automated processes, making the network more responsive to user needs. The software control will automatically pair network and spectral resources with the service-level requirements for an application.

If we are to see the fulfilment of all 5G promises, a 5G network must be on a very high level of automation. This will help reduce operator costs and provide the service customers demand. Having the right IT tools and cloud infrastructure will be essential and should save operators time and money. Therefore, a knowledge of cloud-based technologies and virtualisation will be vital for many engineering roles to meet the demands of the 5G network.

Automating the network

As Computers begin shipping with embedded cellular connectivity, joining the billions of smartphones already dependent on global networks, coupled with exponential growth in the connected devices via the Internet of Things, managing future 5G networks will only be possible with automation and a mix of electronics, IT and engineering skills.

For further information on mobile network careers, click here, please contact David Philpott on 01582 878819 or send an email to DPhilpott@RedlineGroup.com